Puppies start losing their “baby” teeth between four and six months of age. The front teeth, called incisors, will be lost first. The new, permanent, adult teeth will push out the “baby” teeth. When your puppy begins to lose his teeth, he may have a foul breath and you may notice blood on any hard items he chews on.
Even though most adults brush their teeth morning and night they still have their teeth cleaned once or twice a year by a dental technician. Dogs are no different than humans as far as proper dental care is concerned. When a dog eats a meal, food accumulates where the teeth meet the gums. Bacteria in the mouth eat the food deposits and the result is plaque. Plaque causes inflammation at the gum line called gingivitis and eventually a pocket forms between the gum and the root of the tooth. The soft plaque eventually becomes a very hard deposit on the teeth called “calculus”. As the calculus accumulates and the gingivitis progresses, the pocket between the tooth root and the gum line becomes deeper and the attachment holding the root of the tooth to the gum is destroyed. The gum recedes exposing the tooth root. Eventually, the bone holding the tooth in place is destroyed and the tooth falls out or must be extracted.
Brushing your puppy’s teeth between the ages of eight and sixteen weeks is critical and it will make the job easier when he is an adult. Buy toothpaste formulated for dogs. It’s flavored so dogs love the taste. Start with a little dab of toothpaste on your finger and let your puppy taste it. Then slip your finger under his upper lip and rub the toothpaste on his teeth. When you are finished, let your puppy have a food treat. Eventually buy an infant or child’s toothbrush or a toothbrush designed for dogs and begin brushing his teeth.
It is equally important to provide your puppy with things to chew on to assist in the cleaning process. Rawhide bones for medium to large puppies and pig’s ears for smaller puppies are great for cleaning the molars and premolars. If you cannot brush his teeth and especially if he won’t chew on rawhide or other dental chew items, he will probably need to have his teeth professionally cleaned when he is about three years old. The more often you can brush your dog’s teeth, the less often he will have to have his teeth professionally cleaned by your veterinarian. A little extra effort now will save you a lot of expense in the future.